Daily Archives: March 1, 2013

How to Approach Effective Moderation

One of this week’s readings discusses the process and occasional controversy around enforcing rules within your community, and whether or not you do (or should) enforce them fairly amongst all participants – even when your members self-police the community by turning on the rule-breakers and “trolling the trolls,” so to speak. As a graduate of j-school, a semi-experienced editor of publications and blogs, and generally someone who enjoys debating rules of propriety and how people in charge should police them, I found the post fascinating. The questions asked by the blogger automatically open up SO many more questions, and variances depending on the community type, size, and Flickr: cheerfulmonksubject matter.

First, of logistics:

How does one go about policing a community after it reaches a “critical mass” – when it will require more man hours in one day than you have to devote to it? How do you, as a moderator (and a programmer/rule-maker) cover everything, all the time? Can you set automatic filters which red flag posts containing forbidden content? And when you get those red flags, how do you decide where the content falls – on which side of the solid line you have set? For example, at what point is a photo with nudity, considered “art” vs. “adult  content”? Or when someone quotes another source, and the quote contains content outside the rule limits, will their entire point be deleted? Will there be an opportunity to edit the post after it’s sent, so the poster can change his comment later, or will he lose involvement in that particular conversation, at that particular time, instantaneously?

When the community reaches its critical mass, how should CM’s decide whom to entrust with part of the moderating responsibilities? One very prominent story I read on Gawker last year talked about “Violentacrez,” a Reddit user and well-known troll, who also voluntarily served as a moderator in many hugely popular Reddit conversation threads. Violentacrez was not a paid employee of Reddit, but he was well-known and well-liked by its paid staff for his good work, even as he stalked the internet and posted pornographic content for 18 hours a day. As the length and scathing tone to the Gawker article suggests, few liked Violentacrez, and many enjoyed watching as his identity was revealed. He was fired from his job specifically for his online behavior, and has since gained attention from law enforcement. Still, Reddit never took responsibility for him or necessarily sided with him – which, I think, creates a problematic model for any other volunteer moderators in a similar situation.

Secondly, consider some questions of message:  

Great, you’ve established strict rules, probably for the good of your community as a whole. So, are you, as the CM, prepared to call out your own (probably strongest and most dedicated) community members? How do you chastise or edit any content posted by a rule-breaker whom your own community has turned on, without making a martyr of him/her or enforcing the idea that “trolling the troll” is okay? How do you hold everyone to the rules you set, regardless of the intentions behind any offending content, without driving members away? And how do your enforcement (or lack thereof) and your enforcement methods affect the community’s evolution, mood, communications styles, and eventual profile?

I know I’ve used a lot of question marks in this post, but all the questions are valid concerns that community managers, editors at media outlets, and social media managers must address in ways specific to their individual community settings. So, here’s one more question: How would you (or do you) go about enforcing the rules of content within your community?

Nothing is Stronger then a Well Built Community

This week’s topic is on building a community from scratch. There are a number of suggested readings which provide tips on how to build the best community from scratch. Through additional research, I found one article from www.socialfresh.com, that I feel provides good insight into building a strong community. The article,  How to Build a Community From Scratch, is written by David Spinks as he weighs in on the topic.

http://www.communityspark.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/community_members_active.jpg

http://www.communityspark.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/community_members_active.jpg

Spinks begins the article by explaining why both start-up companies and large organizations have problems building a community. Furthermore, start-ups have a problem because they take on the mind-set of the company in trying to grow as quickly as possible, however this is a problem because communities most often do not work that way. Secondly, larger organizations have a problem building a community from scratch because they often think that they have the money and brand recognition which equates to an instant community. Bottom line however, a community is not built over night, but as Spinks mentions, “…Both require that you give every small aspect of the larger goal your full attention, and build up toward your vision.”

The article then continues to outline a “foolproof community building strategy.” The strategy outlined is…

  • Step 1- Pick up your phone, and call a user/customer. Ask them about themselves. Ask them about their experience with your company. Make a personal connection.
  • Step 2 – Invite them to a private facebook group, for your customers.
  • Step 3 –Introduce them to the group and help them get involved in the discussions.
  • Step 4 – Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Although this strategy seems pretty simple, a community manager must understand that this process takes time and can be tedious. Spinks goes on to explain that a community manager must continue this strategy until the discussions in the group are flowing smoothly and until the community manager feels that the group’s users are connecting with each other and a true community is forming.

Much like the recent, social media dilemma Maker’s Mark encountered after diluting their bourbon, the article mentions to stay away from ambassador programs. Rather, suggests to start focused and simple and to listen to your community because they will tell you when it is time to build more structure. As mentioned earlier, this strategy may seem tedious although simple. Companies often tend to want to say, “I dont have time to call all of users,” however Spink explains, “There’s no interaction too small to be worth your time, when you’re trying to build a true community.”

So to all community managers, remember what Spinks suggests, “It may seem tedious, but once it’s all done…NOTHING IS STRONGER THEN A WELL BUILT COMMUNITY!”

Challenges of Starting an Online Community

Many of the readings this week discussed ways on how to approach the creation of an online community and some of the questions you should ask yourself when establishing a social media presence. Along with the readings, the Google Hangout discussion with Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI, indicated that there are many questions on how a company should manage their Online Community Managers. Some companies may find themselves with the lack of experienced personnel to handle the duties of community management or establishing the vision of their social media presence.

Where to Start?

According to David Spinks’ column, the easiest way to start an online community is through the personal connections with your established customers. Invite them to a private Facebook group or Twitter following that will enable them to share their experiences with other customers in the group. According to David, through time and effort, you will have an online community of customers that has the potential to grow into an external audience that can promote your product/service. Personally, I think this is a simple, straight-forward method to start an online community, but can be limiting if you are a startup that does not have an established customer base.

One of the most significant takeaways from the Google Hangout this week was that many companies can struggle with the creation and management of an online community.  If there isn’t executive management support, then initiative must come from within and gradually change the pre-conceived notions of upper executives through the successes of social media integration. Third party agencies are another way to handle the creation of a community, but they must be managed appropriately. A company should never detach itself from an agency due to the high-level of visibility with customers.

Any company that is considering the pursuit of an online community needs to ask itself “why are we doing this” and “what do we want to get from this?” In my opinion these are two crucial questions to ask prior to assigning any resources on the creation of a social media presence. My previous employer spent millions on a social media campaign without taking the time to establish a thriving online community; relying on an agency without internal involvement with the initiative. Clearly, my employer had no idea what they wanted to get from this except for a general sales figure.

Specific, measurable, attainable goals need to be defined in order to measure the success of an online community. I’m curious to see what experiences my fellow classmates have had with determining the success of a social media campaign… If you have experiences, feel free to post comments to this post.

Reaping the Rewards: Community Campaigns

4316028378_74885d814e_nOne of our readings this week was an article on Kommein.com, in this piece, the author listed five questions a Community Manager should ask prior to the launch of a community campaign. There is a significant emphasis that must be placed on preserving the members of the community and their involvement in day-to-day activities. Making them jump through hoops to get to their desired content or products/services is a big no-no. Can you think of any other questions that should be asked while considering an online community campaign?